Thai press one of the more restricted in Asean: SEAPA

Thai press one of the more restricted in Asean: SEAPA

THAILAND'S fourth estate has turned from being fairly free to one of the most restricted in the region, standing beside Myanmar and Malaysia, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance said on World Press Freedom Day yesterday.

"The military junta that took power on May 22, 2014 has imposed strict bans on media, public and online criticism of the government while overhauling the political system before calling for an election in 2016," Seapa said.

Generally, media and citizens have learned to stay within the rules after hundreds were "invited" by the military for "attitude adjustment" - euphemisms for summons and detention.

"Or maybe, people are just biding their time," it said in a statement.

However, Thai media representatives seem to have a different perspective. Many of them have joined the current establishment performing various functions with organs such as the legislature and reform body.

Pradit Ruangdit, a media representative with the militarysponsored National Reform Council, said in a panel discussion yesterday that his organisation would take into consideration a demand from media professional organisations to lift the junta's restrictions.

"But, the media should be well aware of the situation and its roles," said Pradit, a former president of the Thai Journalists Association.

"We have to review our role and change a new set of questions to reflect the direction of the country's reform."

The Thai Journalists Association, Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, National Press Council of Thailand and News Broadcasting Council of Thailand yesterday jointly called upon the junta to revoke its Announcements Nos 97/2557, 103/2557 and 3/2558 to create an environment for reconciliation with free and safe discussions.

"This comes especially at a time of national reform in Thailand. Therefore, it is necessary that people from different groups have opportunities to submit their opinions and proposals on how they want to see the future of the country," they said in a statement.

Concern about 'political investors'

They also called for the National Broadcasting and Telecommuni-cations Commission (NBTC) to be free from state interference.

Last week the NBTC cancelled the licence of pro-red-shirt PeaceTV.

The media organisations disagreed with the role of the body but cautioned about the political role of the station.

"All media organisations should work professionally and responsibly under the law, code of ethics and code of conduct with effective selfregulation to uphold the freedom of the press," it said.

Thepchai Yong, chairman of the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, raised concerns over the domination of politics-linked investors in the media industry.

Business domination is a new challenge for the professional media, he said.

"It's easy to know about political intervention in the media, but it is difficult for the public to realise that the media is under business interference," he said during the panel discussion on World Press Freedom Day.

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